RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) – The death toll from COVID-19 in Brazil topped 150,000 on Saturday evening, despite signs the pandemic is slowly receding in Latin America’s largest country.
Brazil’s health ministry reported that the death toll now stands at 150,198. This figure is the second in the world behind the United States, according to the tally maintained by Johns Hopkins University.
This step rekindled the pain of Naiane Moura, a sales consultant, who lost her father Elivaldo to COVID-19 in April. The 58-year-old postman had no previous illness and fought COVID-19 for seven days at a public hospital in Manaus, Brazil’s largest city in the Amazon.
“When I see 150,000, I see my father alongside many other faceless bodies,” Moura said over the phone. “I never imagined we would reach that number. I don’t believe we’ll ever be able to totally overcome this.
Brazilian far-right President Jair Bolsonaro downplayed the severity of the virus as deaths rose rapidly in Brazil. The 65-year-old president has flouted social distancing during heated protests and cheered on crowds when exiting the presidential residence.
Bolsonaro rejected governor and mayor lockdowns and other tough measures to contain the spread of the virus, even after contracting it himself in July, and insisted the shutdown of the Brazilian economy would plunge the country in chaos.
” Life goes on. Brazil must produce, ”he declared on July 7 in Brasilia, announcing that he was infected.
Moura’s hometown of Manaus turned into a horror spectacle at the start of the pandemic. Between April and May, the city’s health system collapsed as patients were turned away from full hospitals and overwhelmed cemeteries were forced to dig mass graves. The state capital of Amazonas has recorded 122 deaths per 100,000 population, well above the national average of 71 per 100,000 population. The nation of 210 million people surpassed the 5 million confirmed infections on Wednesday, official data showed.
There have been signs of relief in Brazil recently. Over the past month and a half, the viral curve has dropped. The average number of deaths was 598 in the past 7 days, the lowest level since the start of May.
Mayors of large cities such as Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro continue to reopen activities such as cinemas and schools, even as public health experts warn of possible new outbreaks.
Manaus, where restrictions have been relaxed, has seen an increase in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, which has led to speculation of a possible second wave. Local authorities reinstated restrictions on trade and activity and closed the riverside beach.
Moura said she held federal authorities accountable for the massive death toll.
“Many lives could have been saved if our leaders had taken strong action early on,” she said.
Bolsonaro has been heavily criticized for his handling of the health crisis and has changed health minister twice amid the pandemic. Yet his popularity is at an all-time high since taking office in January 2019, which political analysts attribute to his distribution of emergency funds to help tens of millions of poorer Brazilians weather the economic recession. Some 40% of Brazilians polled by pollster Ibope judge their government to be good or excellent, according to a poll released on September 24 that has a margin of error of 2 percentage points. “Bolsonaro has helped people open their eyes. Health must go hand in hand with the economy, ”said Paulo Gomes, 54, a taxi driver who supports Bolsonaro.
In Sao Paulo, Ricardo Vieira, a doctor working in one of the city’s largest working-class neighborhoods, the favelas, said the government’s COVID-19 money transfer program was not enough to protect the poor, who often have limited access to health care.
To address the lack of support in the Paraisopolis favela, an NGO called G10 hired three private ambulances and eight health workers, including Dr Vieira, who has been there since March.
“We are dealing with lives, and when we arrived in a poor community, we saw that the government could not reach these people. Vieira told The Associated Press.
Despite the difficulties and the lack of resources, Vieira continues to struggle to contain the ravages of the pandemic.
“I do what I can, I do my best,” Vieira said, as tears rolled down her cheek. “And I don’t know what else I could do.”
PA video journalist Tatiana Polastri reported from Sao Paulo.